Sunday, July 7, 2013

Seeing Through the Eyes of a Child's Lens: Volunteering at Old Naledi Trust

This Monday was a national holiday in Botswana, so after spending a week in Kanye, a large group went to go volunteer at a Trust at Old Naledi that caters to the neighborhood kids that spend time at the Trust to receive meals and do activities. Old Naledi is the neighborhood where I spent the first week of clinicals so I thought I knew the area pretty well, but actually spending time outside the clinic doors and with so many under privileged kids made me see it in a whole new light. I had heard about this type of volunteering experience from some of those in our group who had gone to Old Naledi before, but I really had no idea what to expect. I love little kids so I was really hoping there would be some little ones to play with, and boy were there a lot of them!

We arrived about an hour and forty-five minutes late (no surprise there, I'm astonished I still somewhat expect our transport to arrive on time) to the area where we would be setting up activities with the kids. We were all immediately jumped on by dozens of kids--the younger ones grabbing at our hands and the older ones wanting to know our names and play with our hair. 

Abigail and I laughing with our new friend

Some of my favorite memories include painting the kids' faces (most of the boys wanted to be lions and that was the only animal I could semi-successfully create). Abigail and I got to play with an especially cute little girl whose mom wanted to get her face painted. This little girl was not having it though. Every time Abigail attempted to put the face paint crayon on her she would immediately either turn her head quickly or put up a hand to say "no way hosay!"It was no surprise that almost every single kid whose face we painted, and even those who were just hanging around watching, wanted their picture taken.

All the infatuation with cameras reminded me of a book I read where this one NGO (I know this is extremely descriptive, but I'm drawing a blank on the name) would go into rural villages around the world and give kids and adults cameras to take pictures with. The cameras were used in a way to get a sense of how a certain population viewed their own lives and what they found most valuable. In the end, each family got to keep a picture of their entire family as a keepsake (in most cases this was the only time they had actually seen themselves all together in years). Remembering this story, I couldn't help but wonder if these kids really just wanted to see what they themselves looked like by asking to see our cameras all the time (or if they had ever really seen themselves in a mirror before?). When the kids weren't grabbing for our cameras, many of them simply just looked up at us and asked to be held which was probably my single favorite thing I did that entire day. Most of the kids I held were very quiet and it was apparent to me that perhaps they don't get this type of affection or even physical closeness at home. I held them as long as they wanted to be held or until one pooped on me or started spitting up her bottle (yep, you read that right). 

Towards the end of our time at Old Naledi we prepared lunch for all the kids. The meal consisted of various colored hotdogs (yes, some hotdogs were regularly colored but others were oddly pink and red...) that we prepared and served in buns that were slathered with butter--sounds delicious I know. We also gave them watered down, really sweet juice, an orange, and a surprisingly tasty little candy. I had to remember that this was the only meal that these kids would eat for at least 12 hours, but I couldn't help but think how much I wanted to give them an apple and some peanut butter instead. It was really at that moment stuffing all the hotdogs that I wished I could do more to help in a more substantial way. Reason to come back and stay longer in Southern Africa? I think so!  
The group with all the kiddies!

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